FAA Clears Pilots, Controllers To Take Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccine

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The FAA has cleared pilots and air traffic controllers to take the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine as long as they take 48 hours away from the cockpit or console to clear any immediate side effects. The agency issued a news release on Saturday, the day after the FDA gave emergency use authorization for the vaccine, which is now being distributed throughout the country. “To maintain the highest level of safety in the National Airspace System, the agency will require aviation professionals with medical certifications or medical clearances to observe a period of 48 hours following the administration of this vaccine before conducting safety-sensitive aviation duties, such as flying or controlling air traffic,” the news release said. The waiting period applies for the administration of both doses of the vaccine, which occur 21 days apart.

Last week, the Air Line Pilots Association raised concerns over whether taking the vaccine would medically disqualify members and the FAA said it would wait for the outcome of a committee meeting of the FDA on the new vaccine to issue its ruling. The FDA gave the emergency use authorization late Friday with an age limit of 16 or older and cautions for certain people with severe allergies or some underlying conditions. Common side effects for most people are soreness at the injection site and fatigue, chills, headache and body aches. They are apparently more pronounced after the second dose. The FAA took pains to explain that it’s not trying to cast doubt about the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine now that the FDA has signed off on it. “The FAA encourages Americans to receive COVID-19 vaccinations as authorized by FDA,” the agency said. “This policy announcement pertains to a specialized group of FAA-certificated professionals who perform safety-sensitive aviation duties.” 

The FAA said it doesn’t expect to take any further action about the vaccine but it will also monitor the clinical data in coming months and “will adjust these recommendations as needed.” The agency will assess the FDA’s findings on each of the vaccines expected from other pharmaceutical companies in coming weeks and months and will issue guidance for each.

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